Crushes On Countries

Michelle Lhooq explores “what makes the global culture industry fall for some countries and not others,” charting the rise of Denmark and South Korea:

[B]oth of these cultures are especially seductive because they show us an alternative way of life that is somehow better than our own — but at the same time, familiar enough that we can envision a bridge between our world and this vision of utopia.

The forest-foraged mentality of Denmark’s culinary scene, the rugged pragmatism of their crime-solving TV shows (and their heroines’ home-spun sweaters), the large safety net of their politics: All of this looks extremely comforting from afar, a welcome respite from capitalism’s soulless gloss. In times of recession, the desire to return to our roots, to a simpler time when everything worked as it should, can be overwhelming.

On quite the opposite side of the spectrum, Korea’s air-brushed soap opera and pop music stars are ambassadors of the polished sophistication that its neighbors are striving to achieve. Confident, stylish and wired, these superstars reflect their home country’s successful modernization — but still retain their Confucian values. “You can wear Margiela and still be a good Korean daughter,” the dancing baby dolls of Girls Generation, Korea’s most successful pop group, seem to be saying. For countries like Vietnam and Thailand that are still trying to figure out how to reconcile the forces of westernization, modernity and tradition, this call is also impossible to resist.

(Video: Girls Generation’s “Gee”, which has over 100,000,000 views on YouTube)